We have already offered you a great guide to Taiping’s Best Food and told you how to visit and hike to Bukit Larut/Maxwell Hill, Malaysia’s second British colonial hill station — the first is Penang Hill, read our complete guide.
In 2019, before the world changed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Taiping was also awarded the third spot as “World’s Most Liveable City” behind Ljubljana and Vancouver at the Sustainable Top 100 Destination Awards at the International Tourismus-Börse (ITB) travel trade show in Berlin.
Part of this “livability” is due to the beautiful Taiping Lake Gardens that lay at the center of the town, nestled right below Bukit Larut.
Taiping Lake Gardens comprise of West Lake, South Lake, Jungle Lake, and a number of smaller ponds and little islands linked by footpaths and decorative bridges. At night, some come alive with lights.
This post will tell you all you need to know to make a visit to Taiping Lake Gardens a memorable experience.
Where are the Taiping Lake Gardens
First of all, here is a map of Taiping Lake Gardens:
Where to Stay near Taiping Lake Gardens
Taiping offers a nice selection of hotels and places to stay that are all around or in very close distance to the Lake Gardens. These are some of our favourite suggestions:
- Novotel. You can’t go wrong with this popular brand, central and practical, and in walking distance to West Lake.
- Raintown Homestay it’s a perfect apartment for groups or families and fits up to 8 people.
- The Cozytainer has swanky beds in shipping containers, the first of its kind in Taiping. Book on Booking.com
- Sojourn Beds & Cafe is Taiping’s first hostel, straight in the old town.
- Louis Hotel is central and surprisingly cheap for the swanky and comfy rooms it offers.
A Brief History of Taiping Lake Gardens
Taiping Lake Gardens date back to 1884 (the same year botanist Charles Curtis created Penang Botanical Gardens) and occupy a former 60-plus hectare site that once housed some of Perak’s famous tin mines. It was donated by the wealthy tin miner and rubber planter Chung Keng Quee, and landscaped as Taiping Lake Gardens under the direction of British town planner Charles Compton Raede. The place maintains the beauty of its origins, and it’s evergreen, given Taiping’s favourable rainy climate.
Best Things to do at Taiping Lake Gardens
Taiping Lake Gardens are better visited on foot. There is ample — and free — parking around Pekeliling road, so stop your vehicle and start walking and enjoying these beautiful grounds.
The following are suggestions on some of the best activities for a day out at Taiping Lake Gardens.
1Take a stroll along the Raintree Walk
The main part of West Lake’s southern coast is flanked by Pekeliling Street and is filled with magnificient rain trees, many older than 100 years, with long branches that extend all the way to the water. It’s a very peaceful and scenic area for both walkers and joggers, and a perfect place to come ad relax. Yes, for once in Malaysia/Asia, you’ll find some nice benches to sit on and chill.
2Admire Taiping Lake Gardens’ West Lake
The biggest pond in the Gardens is certainly the West Lake, which also includes Turtle Point and Lotus Bay, and two floating islets to its northern side called Scotts and Duck islands. Continue walking along Jalan Pekeliling and you’ll skirt West Lake along its outer side until the road transforms into Jalan Sultan Mansor.
There are several benches where you can sit down to rest, and you may buy an ice cream off one of the sellers that come here at the busiest times of the day — mornings and evenings, when the temperature is cooler and joggers and locals come here to enjoy the peace and quiet.
3Rent a bicycle and tour around Taiping Lake Gardens
As Taiping Lake Gardens are definitely spread out, a good option to get on with your tour is to rent a bicycle and strike off along the well-maintained paths and bridges. You could scuttle all the way from the West Lake to the Zig Zag bridge on the other end of the Lake Gardens, or follow Jalan Pekeliling all around the perimeter of the lakes.
If you don’t have your own,you may rent a bike on the small bank right opposite the public toilets on the southwestern side of Taiping Lake Gardens, at the end of the Raintree Walk.
4Visit the Chinese Bridge
If you take a right turn from Pekeliling Road where the big and beautiful trees of the Raintree Walk are, you’ll end up at the first notable bridge within Taiping Lake Gardens. As the name suggests, the Chinese Bridge has architectural motifs that remember a Chinese Pavillion with gilded red pillars. If you sit here, you can see the bottom of the West Lake to your left-hand side, and the beginning of the South Lake to your right.
5Take a Paddle Boat and Float on West Lake
What’s the fun of being on a lake if you can’t take to the waters? As swimming is prohibited at Taiping Lake Gardens, the best thing to do is to rent a paddle boat and strike off around West Lake and its islets.
Rent your boat from the kiosks on on the small bank right opposite the public toilets on the southwestern side of Taiping Lake Gardens, at the end of the Raintree Walk. This is also where you’ll have to return your boat.
6Visit Taiping Lake Garden’s Red Bridge
The red bridge is Taiping Lake Garden’s most central, set over the Swan Lake and right after the West Lake, the biggest pond in the whole gardens. Contrasting against the viridian backdrop of Bukit Larut, is a nice place to take some pictures.
7Meet some Cheeky Monkeys
Taiping Lake Gardens are a big natural playground for a bunch of Malaysian animals like the monitor lizard and the endangered dusky leaf monkeys. We personally love these white-spectacled little monkeys: they have white fur on their mouth, too, that make them look like real cuties. Look up in the trees and see if you can spot some.
8Visit the Zig Zag Bridge
Set on the northern fringe of Taiping Lake Gardens on the Alamanda Pond, the Zig Zag bridge is one quirky attraction. We don’t know the reason why it’s been built in this most peculiar shape, but it definitely makes for a different spot to hang out. Its covered pavillion is a perfect spot to relax when it’s too hot and observe what’s going on in the surrounding water.
9The Taiping Lake Gardens Clock Tower
On the northern side of the Lake Gardens is this concrete tower with circular and triangular shapes carved in it. Don’t forget to pay a visit when it’s sunny and you’ll be actually able to understand how it works!
10Weird Movie Trivia at the Stone Garden
Built in the 1970s as a children’s playground, the Stone Garden is located on the southeastern side of Taiping lake Gardens and it looks like a fortress of sorts.
The quirky trivia here is that it’s believed to have been inspired by Ultraman, the popular TV series that was a hit at the time. A short stone staircase leads to the top of the stone garden, where there are statues of the prehistoric monsters that Ultraman fought against in the series.
11Visit Taiping Zoo
Taiping Zoo is the best in Malaysia, period. Even if we do not support zoos where animals live less than miserable lives, Taiping’s is a good one. It has large enclosures with no cages or roofing that, at least, give the animals a semblance of a natural habitat. There’s a bit of everything here, including kangaroos and exemplars of the elusive Malayan tiger — great to know that it’s conserved somewhere, and not just poached to extinction from national forests.
Taiping Zoo also has an interesting Night Safari with knowledgeable guides and it’s a great place to bring your kids. Don’t forget also to check out our guide on the best things to do in Penang with kids.